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Sen. Clinton and Rep. Honda Introduce Language Bill

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New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Rep. Michael M. Honda, a fellow Democrat from California, announced yesterday they were introducing a bill in Congress intended to boost opportunities for immigrants to learn English. The bill contains a couple of provisions that could benefit school-age English-language learners. It increases funding for the U.S. Department of Education's Even Start Family Literacy program, for instance, and proposes a $1,500 tax credit for teachers of English-language learners (I surmise this means specialists, not any mainstream teacher who has a few ELLs in her class) and a deduction for certification.

The text of the bill, "Strengthening Communities Through Education and Integration Act," or H.R. 6617, isn't yet available on Thomas, so I'm working from a summary posted on Mr. Honda's Web site.

The bill seems to be mostly focused on expanding opportunities for adults to take English and civics classes. It offers tax credits, for example, to businesses that provide their workers with English literacy and General Educational Development training. It proposes creating an "office of citizenship and immigrant integration" in the Department of Homeland Security. Hmmm, I wonder how it would work to have the same office that arrests immigrants who are living illegally in the country to also be in charge of "integration."

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund put out a press release supporting the bill and saying the organization helped to draft it.

3 Comments

Thank you for posting this very interesting information. I cannot remember a time when teachers of English-language learners got special attention in a positive way from politicians, let alone a tax credit. Adult schools have been operating with waiting lists for years now. I have read six months to a year. My own experience recommending students to the public library literacy program led to three years wait. The libraries are always trying to recruit volunteers, but even a volunteer does not replace a fully trained language professional.

I am a supporter of Senator Clinton for president, even though she has dropped out. Now I know why! I am an ESOL specialist and love my job. One thing that they could do for helping students learn English is to provide continuing educational access to the native language which is the big indicator in how well students learn English academically. Right now districts are only obligated to provide Bilingual education to schools where they have 20 or more students in the same grade level. I dream of the day when we can have itinerant native language teachers to make sure we can cover as many students as we can. It's important and there needs to be greater requirements to make sure all teachers and administrators receive some training in second language development (not just workshops), hopefully in their educational requirements so that everyone can have some understanding. It is a waste of my time to have to teach and re-teach ideas of basic second language development to mainstream teachers and administrators. Many have so little knowledge that they rarely understand and can relate anyway. Special education is often taught in heavy doses so many professionals just resort to their knowledge of that. They just figure it must be the same and it is always very dangerous.

English language learning, civics education, and becoming a US citizen make a powerful teaching and learning package. Linking English language teaching with promoting active, informed, engaged citizenship -- including passing the test to become a citizen -- is readily do-able and effective. Meaningful incentives and support should also be provided to the education community to move more deliberately in this direction with curricula, materials, training, and innovative programs.

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